Friday, October 31, 2008

Where the metal meets the trail

After my return to Texas on Tuesday, we had a farrier appointment on Wednesday. It was time to get Hanks shoes back on, as we were going back to work. We meet the farrier at a friends place, as it is a nice set up, and he just does not drive over into our area. It is worth the 30 min. drive to have him do their feet, as her does a great job. Just took Hank and Gambler, as the other two are not wearing shoes, and I can keep up with their feet. Hank as usual, stands really nice in the cross ties as he gets his feet done, so I don't have to hold him.

Gambler needs held, and talked to, as he is just odd, and worries about everything going on, especially the horses in the barn if they look at him wrong. But he was good, and before we knew it, we were heading home with them.

The next afternoon, we caught the boys and headed over to the trails. It was late afternoon, and just a beautiful day. Our Fall weather has been spectacular for the most part. Thelma convinced us she really wanted to do to, although she gets tired pretty quick, and really does not like the horses. But, she gave us those brown sad eyes, and hubby gave in. The surgery was 2 months ago, and Hank has been doing super. The vet told me he could go back to "light" work 30 days after surgery, but I decided to wait for 60 before we started riding him again. We mounted up, and headed out for a short loop on the trails, Thelma actually got out in front of us briefly, but that never does last long, before she is tagging behind.

We took turns leading the way. Gambler prefers to follow, but does not fuss at being out front. Just would prefer to stick his nose behind Hank, and tag along. Our fall colors are just starting to change. Will not be a super pretty year, but still nice to have trees that change with the seasons.

Hank was acting like his normal self. Looking at everything, Checking out every little dip and stick in the trail. We trotted a little, and he was more than willing to do so. Sure was nice to be back on MY horse. Gambler is OK, but Hank is my guy.

We did our small loop, and enjoyed the quiet of the late afternoon. We did spook up a Doe and a Buck, who crossed the trail in front of us. I was surprised, as they usually "know" when hunting season is close, and are then hard to see. But the best part of the ride, was watching the sun get low on the horizon, and be able to look between Hanks ears and watch the sun lower in the distance. I had been missing looking between those ears! Hopefully I will be able to do so for many years to come.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Driving Arizona

Last week, I flew to Burbank CA, to go help my friend Vickie at a Combined Driving Event(CDE) with her lovely horse Galent. The even was in Sonoita Arizona, which is south of Tuscon, in the Southern part of the state. I arrived Tuesday, helped her finish packing the rig, and getting ready, and we hit the road early Wednesday morning. It was about 600 miles away. The trip was uneventful, and we chatted the whole way. Because I am a control freak, I love to drive, so I took care of that duty for the 12 hour trip. We arrived after dark, but found our way in, got Galent into his stall, and then headed to town to find some food, before heading to the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at.

We found a little diner/bar that was still open. This is not a big town, and most everything was closed. But they had food to eat, a juke box that played some good music, and some local cowboys that were very friendly, and entertaining as we ate our meal. I love meeting locals in areas like this. Probably because I live in a smallish town myself.

So, off to the B&B, which was tricky to find. It included some small dirt roads, and a narrow driveway, and a gate. But once inside, we found it to be a very lovely setting. We had to settle for a room with one queen bed the first 2 nights, and since I get restless legs, I opted for a pad on the floor with bedding, so I would not be kicking Vickie all night. The next morning we had an awesome breakfast made by the couple who owned the place, then off to the barn to work the horse.

Galent was a little full of himself, so we decided Vickie should ride him a bit first, as I needed to adjust some harness on him, and that is tough to do when he is squirming. But, as she was getting on, and I was holding him, he had a horsey brain fart, reared (something he has never done before) and he then fell over on her. She was fine, bt her shoulder was sore. She had surgery on it in the past. After deciding it might need looked at, we talked to show management, and before we knew it, the EMT's were heading our way, with the sirens on! We got them radioed to turn of the sirens, it was not that critical. The arrived and took great care of Vickie. Had her move the arm up, down, around, took vital signs, and told her it did not look like they needed to take her anywhere, but to get it looked at. Since having t looked at, ad X-Rayed would not "fix" it, she opted to wait until returning home. But now, she could not drive her horse, and I was the new driver. Been about 10 years since I have driven a CDE. I did not have all the proper clothes, ut we tossed things together. And as we were making the decision, a good friend, Chris Downing, who I have known for years, but had not seen much since moving to TX arrived, and said she would ride with me on the marathon. The recently moved to CO, and came to help out. I worked Galent some that day, and the next morning, and boy was he strong! Pulling, and a bit tense with me. Might be just the new driver, or he was not liking the bit, r just fit and ready to go.

We did our dressage on Friday, and while I was pleased with how he drove, and how he listened, the judges thought otherwise, and he had a poor score. But since Vickie was pleased with what she watched, and I was happy, we just disregarded the scores, and continued to enjoy ourselves.

Saturday was the marathon. It was a bit warm, and a longer course than we thought he was fit and ready for, but he did awesome. He was strong, forward, ad wiling. Did not want to walk when he was to do so, but lost no time. Breezed through the vet check, and then we headed to the hazards. Training level is not timed in hazards, as they are just part f our over all time on course. Three gates to go through, A,B,C, in alphabetical order. Try to drive nice and smooth, no jerking or hard, sharp turns. These hazards had some tighter turns that I'd have liked for a horse newer to the sport, but he did really well. The water hazard was great fun. We did not have to go through the water, but it was a great chance to school. I expected him to balk, but he never missed a stride, and trotted right on in like a pro. At the end of the marathon, he had another vet check, and was one of the few horses the vet did not need to see back again.

Sunday is a cones course, that you drive through, trying to not hit a cone, and knock off the balls. The clearance is the same distance for everyone. He was again strong and pulling, but responsive. We did not knock down any balls, and did the course in the time allowed. Good boy!

We packed up and decided to head home Sunday afternoon, so Vickie could get to the doctor Monday. Our 12 hour drive got us in about 1-2 in the morning. Boy did I sleep well! Next day the doctor found she had broke her clavicle, and to just rest it, not use the arm, and see how it heals.

Tuesday I found myself on the plane heading back to Texas, thinking about the great time I had driving such a beautiful horse in Arizona, but sad that Vickie hurt herself and could not do so. And for those curious, he is 63/64th Arabian, with some pinto in there for color. No Saddlebred blood. Born in Montana, from Ravenwood Farms.

The wonderful photos of us from the event were taken by Peggi with Cactus Creek Design. You can see all of our photos, and more of her work at this link:

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Its a Gamble"

Had a nice late afternoon ride with Gambler, and Hank in tow. The air is starting to feel like Fall. The leaves are slowly starting to drop, and before we know it, they will be naked and bare. Saw a couple wild turkeys, and heard some deer. Did about 6 miles, and a little more trotting. So far, Hank seems to be doing well with the light work outs ponying him on the trail.

I thought in this blog, I'd tell a bit more about Gambler. His registered name is Rushcreek Gambler, and he was bred on the Rushcreek ranch in Nebraska. They have been breeding Arabians to use for their ranch work since the 1940. They have over 150,000 acres that they ran their cattle on, and the Arabians were suited well for the Sandhills of Nebraska and all day riding. When a horse was ready to be sold, and new, younger stock rotated in to the work string, often endurance riders would purchase these tough horses. Usually they had large bone, big feet, and a big heart-girth, and broad chest. Not at all what Gambler looks like. He is a smaller build horse, with nice bone, but not something that makes you stop to look, small feet, that remind me more of a mule foot than the big round feet of many of the Rushcreek horses, and is not well sprung at all. The ranch horses are also known for their laid back attitude, that don't get upset over much. "G" is a quirky horse. When we went to look at him, the owner said he was "quirky, stand-offish, and did not really like people". That summed it up pretty good. I was needing an additional horse to take along to the long XP endurance ride in 2004, and buying a horse already fit for endurance was a huge bonus. I did flexion tests, saw one hock a little ouchy, but not bad enough to keep him from doing rides. Otherwise, he seemed sound. He had started his endurance career in 1999. He has only done 2 LD (Limited Distance) rides, finished 3 100's, finishing 11th, 8th, and a 1st. The rest of his 1665 endurance miles were 50 - 75 mile rides. Lots of Top Tens, and a couple of Best Condition awards. He had been raced some, and while I personally do not "race" at endurance rides, it was something I considered when I bought him, as I knew the damage that can be done to the legs of horses ridden fast. But the price was right, and about a month after I bought him, we did 3 days of the 5 day Bryce Canyon XP ride (50 miles a day) in 2003. Then he did some days for me on the 2004 long XP ride, and we made an attempt at Tevis in 2004. This horse has some of the very best recoveries of any horse I have ever worked with. He could trot along through those Sierra Nevada mountains, come in to a pulse check, and in the time it took me to get off, water him, and grab him a handful of hay, his pulse would be down in the 40's. But the issue was, we were going along tripping constantly. For 70 miles, we tripped along, and I feared riding him in the dark on that trail, and was not upset when he came up lame after the 1 hour hold. We have since figured out his tripping is from his hocks hurting from arthritis, so he shifts his weight off them, and forward on to the front end. Then he trips. When he is on Adaquan and Legend, he does pretty well. These days he does not have to do much. He is mostly the hubbies horse, and kind of a back up horse for me.
And, his personality is still quirky, but he really does like people. He is just cautious about them. He is the low man on the totem pole, and the others pick on him. Except when I am riding him, and he will sometimes get brave, and make a face at Hank as I pony him. I remind him that Hank will remember that, and get him back when I am not around. But I think the cat could intimidate him if he wanted to. When camping, he actually becomes very personable, and does the quietest, softest little nicker when he sees me come out of the camper. Not bad for a horse that does not like people.

Gambler along the Pony Express Trail in Nevada. (on the left)

Gambler along the Tevis trail

His nickname is Tornado, since his star kind of looks like one, and his personality is FAR from being a tornado. Also, look close. Last winter he got light brown "eyebrows" over his eyes.

Gambler seems bored with my hubby. ;)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A trail outing

Six weeks after surgery now. Today was time to take Hank for a little outing. He has been moving around the pasture a bunch, and looking really good. Eating well, and getting a tad chubby again. But, weight still low on him, and I am sure that it will take awhile for the topline to build back up as he goes slowly back to work.

I caught Gambler and Hank, and we trailered over to our trails. We had a TON of pleasure riders parked at the trail head. This Fall weather has been pretty nice, and our trail system is one of the most popular in Texas. Even had to search for a parking spot. Reminds me why I usually ride week days, and have the parking and trails almost to myself.

I saddled up, and headed out on Gambler, with Hank in tow. He is one of the easiest horses to pony. Will fall right behind on single track trails, or come up next to me on the two track trails.

We walked along, and he was wanting to stop and graze. He usually is very picky about which grass he will eat, but today when I'd stop, he was not nearly as fussy. Seeing his appetite good on the trail is very encouraging. Hopefully it will carry over when he gets back to being ridden, as I'd like him to eat more than he always has on the trail during the rides. Hank was very cheery (I know I use that term a bunch, but not sure what other word works!) with his ears up, and seemed to be happy to be out there. At one point we were trotting for a short section, and he was starting to pass Gambler in his nice free moving trot, and some grass hanging out of his mouth. Something I was sure looking forward to seeing for the past month.

We were out about 1.5 to 2 hours, and I'd guess we did around 6 miles. I'll keeping ponying him for awhile before I go for a ride on him. The vet said "light work" after a month. Not really sure what light work is for a horse who had been in condition to do long distance rides. I'm feeling cautious enough with him, and hopefully he will let me know if we over did anything.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pony up

Hank has been out in the field doing his own thing for about a week now. This includes lots of grazing, and sometimes a bit of running around with the others. I have been still watching that what goes in, is coming out, and being the horse person I am, when I see him go poop, I go over to take a look at texture and moisture level. :-) The vet said he could go back to light work after a month, so I thought that it was time to start doing a little bit with him. Of course, what is light work to one owner, might be different to another. But I decided that I would start by ponying him some. Yesterday and today, I saddled up Gambler, got the halter and lead on Hank, and we went out in the pasture and trotted a few laps. Not sure how far it is around the 25 acres, but we trotted about 15 min. I figure that is enough for now. Just enough to get the heart pumping a bit, and for him to move and stretch longer than he does when loose in the field. Need to start building up his top line again. He has gained his weight back. Now to get it back in the places it should be.

Thelma always starts out with us, but by the time we loop past the pond, and get back to the house, she has usually had enough. But she does enjoy the tall grass, and will go along and then drop and roll around. Thankfully she was not doing one of those and had us trot up not seeing her, as that can be very exciting when the horses finally see her.

As we finished tonight, the sun was setting, and shining off the tops of the grass, with Hank going along beside Gambler and I, and I could not resist one more picture.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A pedicure

Hank has been out in the pasture pushing a week now. We have some rocks, and a gravel driveway. He had his shoes pulled 3 weeks ago, and has started to get enough hoof growth, to then chip and chunk some in his running around in the pasture. I am really horrible with a rasp, usually taking off more of the skin on my knuckles and fingers, than the hoof. I also found my back can not handle the time I take to clean things up with a rasp, so I started using an electric grinder a few years ago to do small touch ups between farrier visits to keep the little chips from becoming BIG chips out of the hoof on the horses who are barefoot. Because Hank has been shod most of the time for rides, he has had minimal grinder experience. But, I decided to give it a go, and see if he remembered it from a few years ago. I drug it out, and he was standing there, before I slipped a halter on to tie him, and I hit the on button, and he just looked as it made noise. So, I picked up a foot, and gave it a little "zip" and again, he just stood there. After I got the first hoof done, I decided that we needed a video of the horse who has been scared of his own lead rope in the past, standing there with nothing on him as I took a grinder, with the cord going in front of him, and touched up his feet. He has spooked at the garden hose in front of him getting a bath! We did some work last week with a cotton rope around his front legs. Learning to give to the pressure when a rope is hooked behind the leg, and you ask the horse to move a leg towards you when you pull both ends. The lessons went well, and maybe he is understanding these things (ropes, hoses, and cords) are not going to "get" him. One thing about his being set back in his being worked much since surgery is I can do some ground stuff I have been meaning to do. Seems to have already paid off a bit!

(and note, the grinder can take off a LOT of hoof fast if you are not careful. If you decide to try this on your own horse, be VERY careful. Were protection like you would using any tools. Eye protection to keep hoof dust out. Hair out of the way etc. And be familiar with the tool, and completely comfortable. If you have doubts, then don't try it.)